Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) bill: Presbyterian Troubles victims ‘aggrieved by writing off of justice’

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland says that the Troubles victims among its membership “overwhelmingly...feel aggrieved by the writing off of the opportunity to seek justice” from Government legacy proposals.

By Philip Bradfield
Friday, 17th June 2022, 4:50 pm
Updated Friday, 17th June 2022, 4:56 pm
The aftermath of a loyalist bomb in Parnell Street, Dublin as seen in a BBC documentary on the attack.
The aftermath of a loyalist bomb in Parnell Street, Dublin as seen in a BBC documentary on the attack.

Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the General Assembly, was speaking to a press conference ahead of the church’s General Assembly next week, where the issue is to be discussed.

The Government’s NI Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill offers immunity from prosecution to people who cooperate with the proposed information retrieval body. However the bill has been opposed by the majority of victims’ groups and political parties in NI.

Rev Gribben said: “We have responded to the Secretary of State, both to his command paper and now in a face to face meeting with senior officials, about the fact that that bill does not have support in Northern Ireland and does not have support from the overwhelming majority of those who are victims of our Troubles.

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PCI’s Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary, Rev Trevor Gribben.

“We have over the last number of years spent a significant amount of time at congregational level across NI meeting with and discussing with victims their views.

“The one thing I would often say, and I think it is true, is that a significant number if not indeed the majority of victims of our troubles who are Presbyterians, are not aligned with any particular victims group... [although] groups have their place.

“Now, overwhelmingly those people feel aggrieved by the writing off of the opportunity to seek justice. So we have said that to the Secretary of State.”

Expert witnesses recently gave similar evidence to MPs on the NI Affairs Committee about the bill. Peter Murtagh, advocacy support manager at victims’ group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), told them: “One of the biggest issues that isn’t covered [in the bill] is accountability - and that has never been addressed.” He said that victims “ultimately want justice” or at least “some form of accountability” for what happened to them. “And there is nothing within this that provides that for them.”

Sandra Peake, of the Wave Trauma Centre, told the MPs: “This [bill] is perpetrator-friendly, it is perpetrator-focused and ultimately the perpetrator will win from this – it won’t be the family.” Victims Commissioner Ian Jeffers said many in the sector felt their engagement with the Northern Ireland Office on the Bill was a “transfer of information” rather than a consultation.

The Presbyterian Church has 204,000 members in 530 congregations on the island of Ireland.